8. (Work)space, Society, and the Changing City

Work is an all-encompassing social activity that produces and uses a space and, as the meaning and types of work as well as our societies change, so, too, the spaces of work. Within this process, the city is repeatedly shaped and reshaped. This is how, for example, amid industrial capitalism, the private sphere of domestic-life and the public sphere of work-life decoupled—at least apparently so—and concretized in the city shape and its built environment. Work left the home to become something happening elsewhere. Multiple elsewheres emerged in the form of factories or workshops connected through transportation networks and other infrastructures; energy was both produced and consumed, emitting pollutants and greenhouse gases in unprecedented ways. Consequently, the city took new form, and the built and natural environment were radically transformed beyond city borders. What is more, this change in space also altered social (work) relations. Some might argue that space became the tool through which this alteration could happen; that is, some people were put in ‘their place’ to purposely render invisible certain workers and their work. Fast forward to the time of ‘state-managed’ capitalism, social welfare states, the likes emerging in Latin America, constructed some of the most radical modernist architectural and planning projects for the working classes, most of them in the form housing directed to the workers of the State. In the making of the social welfare state not only did the landscape of the city change once again but so did the building scale and how people moved from one place to the other. As neoliberalism took over, a vast majority of factories of industrial capitalism lost their initial use and closed their doors—at least in Western Europe and North America—and in many parts of the world, modernist architecture and planning projects were viewed with scepticism at best or demolished at worst, giving way to new uses and other spaces of work, again shaping the city. Central business districts began to colour the city landscape and to outline the skyline the world around. These, too, have been losing their use for years and have started to become the spectres of financialized capitalism across many cities. Today, in the aftermath of a pandemic that sent many workers from their workspaces elsewhere to work from their homes instead; it elucidated the importance of care and reproductive work and unveiled the gross injustices related to work in the city; or in the midst of the climate emergency and the recognition of human impact on the climate and ecosystems: how will the meaning of work change, if at all? And how will this probable change once again reshape the city, the home, other workspaces, and how we move between them? In this session, we hope to address these questions and critically examine the way in which work has shaped, is shaping, or will shape space and the city at multiple scales. We invite a broad range of contributions that critically investigate the relationship between our societies, work, space, and the city from all geographies and from diverse perspectives: from the material to the immaterial, from the technical to the philosophical.

Topics to discuss include, but are not limited to:

• Paid/unpaid, formal/informal, visible/invisible work
• Identity, health, and well-being
• Sustainability, ecology, environment
• Resources, energy, and emissions
• Remote, home-based, and hybrid work
• Grassroots co-working environments, third-spaces
• Transportation, mobility, infrastructures
• (In)justices and class, gender, race
• Digitalisation, new/traditional technologies
• Nature and future of work
• Reproduction and care work
• New and future forms of work

This session is part of Research Council of Finland funded project T-winning Spaces 2035: https://twinning-spaces2035.com


Dalia Milián Bernal
Tampere University

Jaana Vanhatalo
Tampere University

Alonso Espinosa Mireles de Villafranca
Tampere University